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The Wavering Knife
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Harrowing short stories that range from horror to humor; Brian Evenson's fifth story collection constructs a human landscape as unearthly as it is mundane. Replete with the brutality, primordial waste, and savage blankness familiar to readers of his earlier works, Evenson's Kafkaesque allegories entice the mind while stubbornly disordering it. In the title story an obsessive consciousness folds back on itself, creating a vertiginous melange of Poe and Borges, both horrific and metaphysical. Here, as in "Moran's Mexico," and "Greenhouse," the solitary nature of reading and writing leads characters beyond human limits, making the act of putting words to paper a monstrous violation opening onto madness. In "White Square" the representation of humans by dimly colored shapes confirms our feeling that something lies behind these words, while seeming to mock us with the futility of seeking it. Evenson's enigmatic names - Thurm, Bein, Hatcher, Burlun - placeable landscapes, and barren rooms all combine to create a semblance of conceptual abstraction, as though the material universe had come to exist inside someone's head. Small wonder that Evenson's work has attracted so much attention among philosophers, literary critics, and other speculative intelligences, for it continuously projects a tantalizing absence, as though there were some key or code that, if only we knew it, would illuminate everything. However, the blade of discernment wavers, and we are left to our own groping interpretations.
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About the Author

Brian Evenson is the author of six books of fiction: Altmann's Tongue (Bison Books, 2002), The Din of Celestial Birds (Wordcraft, 1997), Prophets and Brothers (Rodent 1997), Father of Lies (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998), Contagion (Wordcraft, 2000), and Dark Property (Black Square/Hammer Books/Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002). He received an O. Henry Award for his story ""Two Brothers"" and has twice received O. Henry honorable mentions. In 1995 he received an NEA Fellowship; that same year he was told by Brigham Young University that if he continued to write fiction in the same vein as his first book, he would be fired. Instead, Evenson chose to leave of his own free will to teach at Oklahoma State University. He now teaches in the creative writing program at Brown University.

Reviews

"These tales by a modern Poe occur under an immense pressure of language, insight, and observation. Harrowing (Evenson makes us want to check the word's literal meaning) as they are, they take place just beyond the numbed moment where cruelty and craziness grow banal." -Samuel R. Delany, author of The Mad Man"

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